The son of Thomas and Elizabeth Purcell, Henry Purcell began writing music at the age of eight. His musical career began as a chorister in the Chapel Royal, but when his voice matured in 1673, he was appointed as an unpaid assistant to John Hingeston, who was in charge of the King's keyboard and wind instruments. He also acquired experience in organ tuning at Westminster Abbey and was paid to copy books of organ parts.
In 1677 he was appointed Composer-In-Ordinary for the King's Violins and in 1679 succeeded his teacher John Blow as organist at Westminster Abbey, providing him with a salary and a house. It was probably in 1680 or 1681 that he married. From that time he began writing music for the theatre. In July 1682 he was appointed as organist of the Chapel Royal, succeeding Edward Lowe and, in 1683, he succeeded John Hingeston as organ maker and Keeper of the King's instruments.
Purcell's court appointments were renewed by James II in 1685 and by William III in 1689, and on each occasion he had the duty of providing music for the coronation. The last royal occasion for which he provided music was the funeral of Queen Mary in 1695, shortly before his death. It is likely that he died of pneumonia, having spend the night locked out of his house by his wife. He made a will on the day that he died and was buried in Westminster Abbey on 26 November 1695.
Related Composers: John Blow